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Friday, January 24, 2020

In (Partial) Defense of Chief Justice Chase

Salmon Chase is getting clobbered in the press this week. People are criticizing his conduct  in presiding over the Andrew Johnson trial and urging Chief Justice Roberts not to follow his example. There is merit to these criticisms. Chief Justice Chase was trying to run for President in 1868 and shaped his rulings in the trial to further that goal. Shame on him.

Chief Justice Chase's aggressive view of his authority as the presiding officer, though, is another matter. One important point that is often overlooked is that Chase was a former Senator. As a result, he was very familiar with the Senate's procedures and probably felt confident in his ability and authority to run the trial. By contrast, Chief Justice Roberts is new to the Senate and must rely heavily on the parliamentarian. So he is probably more hesitant to take any initiative, though that may change as the trial unfolds. I don't think, though, that Chief Justice's political aspirations undercut the validity of the precedents that he set in 1868 (such as the Chief's power to break tie votes in the Senate). 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on January 24, 2020 at 09:17 AM | Permalink


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